What is a Euro-style game?

Fred Manzo March 22, 2014 6
What is a Euro-style game?
Settlers of Catan

The proto-typical Euro game Settlers of Catan

By Fred Manzo

I’€™m a grognard* who plays the occasional Euro. Now it may be hard for some people to believe but not everyone knows what makes something a Euro-style game.

In my opinion a Euro (sometimes called a “German game”) has the following characteristics:

1. It is a game with little player interaction, which sometimes results in it having a €œ”runaway leader”€ problem.

That is, if there is no way to influence your opponent, how could you possibly stop someone winning who takes an early lead?

2. In a Euro game mechanics are king. And conversely their theme is short-changed, which occasionally leads to some awfully strange games, or at least, some awfully strange game titles. For example, while any particular Euro may be a variation on the standard blue blocks versus red blocks, in one they may be said to represent medieval farmers, in another ancient Egyptian merchants and somewhere else they are said to depict the mud people of the planet Mongo.

3. In my opinion, Euros typically lack pizzazz. In fact, I’€™ve never played a Euro where people shouted or cheered very much. It seems in a Euro luck, chance and emotions are kept to a minimum. In addition, games are made as “€œfair”€ as possible. In other words, one player doesn’€™t normally start on the defensive or with forces particularly different from what’s offered to others in the game. You just don’€™t find the equivalent of a Tiger tank versus 4 Shermans in a Euro.

4. Most Euros are heavily abstract, with rules that are short and to the point You can think of Euros as theme-flavored puzzles.

5. Their victory conditions are arbitrary, so as to keep the game’s length to a pre-determined maximum. Say 60 minutes or so typically. In a wargame, on the other hand, players normally don’t need “no stinkin’ victory conditions” to know who won.

To my mind the phrase “€œmulti-player solitaire”€ describes most Euros perfectly.

 

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Note:grognard m (plural grognards) has been defined as

  1. a grumbler; one who grumbles
  2. an old veteran soldier, specifically an old grenadier of the French Imperial Guard (Grenadiers à pied de la Garde Impériale); an old complaining soldier.
  3. Someone who enjoys playing older war-games or roleplaying games, or older versions of such games, when newer ones are available.  (Or, as I prefer, someone who played those older versions when they were the only ones available.)

6 Comments »

  1. Tom Hammerschmidt April 29, 2014 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    I’ve been playing wargames since the early 70’s. I also play a fair number of Euros.

    This analysis of what a Euro is seems somewhat common amongst the Grognards, but what it seems to do is to take the negative piece of game 1 and another negative from game 2, and so one and then say these negatives are what a Euro is.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely Euros that fit the definition you give above. A lot of them aren’t good games either. I suspect we could come up with a number of wargames that aren’t good either.

    From my experience I’d define a Euro as a game which tends to minimize luck elements in favor of having the interactions between player decisions drive outcomes.

    The definition certainly isn’t perfect but it defines the Euros I like. I’ve run into my fair share of multi player solitaires. They don’t get played again.

    Another definition I saw (on Consimworld I think) that caught my eye was that in most wargames you make make all your moves and then throw the dice (or whatever luck elements come into play). In a Euro the luck elements occur (card draws, etc) and then you make you decisions.

    It’s an interesting point of view. It doesn’t prevent the multi player solitaire problem though.

    • Fred Manzo April 29, 2014 at 10:12 pm - Reply

      Your point of view is absolutely valid. As you can tell by my article I’m a grognard, but I have played plenty of Euros (many of my fellow grognards won’t even do that). And I will admit some Euros are good, solid games that I enjoyed playing (but don’t tell anyone that) and would even play again (horrors!). But there are others, just like in wargaming I admit, that have problems. Perhaps my bias was just showing through a little to clearly above.

      Of course, the fact that I prefer a good old-fashioned wargame, like “Grant Takes Command,” won’t stop me from playing, reviewing and praising Euros. Just keep in mind that when I say a Euro is a good game, it’s superb.

      Thanks for posting.

  2. Roger Cooper May 3, 2014 at 11:36 am - Reply

    I disagree with you on your first point. Many Euros are full of player interaction, such as the game you picked to illustrate, Settlers of Catan.

    • Fred Manzo May 4, 2014 at 4:18 am - Reply

      Roger: Thanks for posting. But on this point we’ll have to agree to disagree. That there is “NO” interaction in “ALL” Euros is obviously wrong as there are plenty of co-operatve Euros. On the other hand, after playing Chess or Go or Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage or Grant Takes Command, one would have to say that there is at least an order of magnitude less player interaction in Settlers of Catan, and most other Euros, than there is in other types of games. I guess it all hinges on what we mean by the phrase “player interaction.” If by that phrase you mean that when I went out my door this morning to get my newspapers and found a $20 bill at the end of my driveway, I “interacted” with the guy who walks his dog passed my house every evening (and who, therefore, lost the chance to find it), then there is player interaction in Catan. After all, in both cases, the person who gets to the resource first, gets to keep total control of it. But I don’t know the fellow’s name, nor do I know where he lives, nor have I every talked to him. But we “interacted?”

  3. Tom Hammerschmidt May 8, 2014 at 2:55 am - Reply

    I’ve never played a game of Settlers that didn’t include a lot of trading. That’s a form of interaction. Player’s make decisions about what and where to build which interacts with my plans. Which is pretty much exactly the kind if interaction you’re defining for Chess, Go, etc. No, my decision doesn’t lead to your loss of ground, units, etc., but it does lead to you losing opportunities. Which of course is what happens when you lose ground, units, etc. We can certainly agree to disagree on this, but I’ve usually defined a good Euro as one that depends heavily on the interaction of player decisions. You look at another player’s assets and position, try to predict what they’re likely to do and plan and act accordingly. Very much like you do in a wargame. The interaction isn’t direct conflict, but it is heavy interaction. Whereas finding $20 at the end of your driveway is more like rolling that 12 on 2d6 at that critical moment. It feels good, but has precious little to do with interaction with other players.

    • Fred Manzo May 8, 2014 at 3:39 am - Reply

      Tom, Thanks for posting. I see your point. But to me, the interactions in a Euro still seems to be on a entirely different level than those in chess. For example, you can play an entire Euro and never even consider coming to an agreement with another player if you don’t see the need. Now, I’m not perfect so this might not be correct. But it’s still my opinion. Thanks again for coming by.

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